Scott Crichton started his Oregon State career with a nondescript redshirt year and then proceeded to take off, jumping immediately into the starting lineup as a freshman notching a career-high 74 tackles (14.5 for loss) - both numbers were tops among NCAA frosh - adding six sacks, three deflected passes, and a school-record six forced fumbles. As a sophomore, he moved from the right, weakside end positions to LDE and really blew up, recording 44 tackles (17.5 for loss) and nine sacks (including a three-sack game against Washington State). In 2013, he started all of the Beavers' 13 games, tallying 47 tackles (19 TFL) 7.5 sacks, adding three forced fumbles - enough to garner Second Team All-Pac-12 honors. Declaring for the draft after his redshirt junior season, Crichton finished his career in Corvalis as the Beavers' all-time leader in forced fumbles (10) and ranked third in sacks (22.5).
Although he didn't have as many sacks in 2013 as he did the previous season, Crichton demonstrated increased strength and versatility, adding these to an already solid skill set: impressive burst off the snap, good strength at the point of attack, and, best of all, a relentless motor. You can see these traits on tape; the fine fellows at Draft Breakdown have eight of Crichton's games on tape - six from 2013. The best matchups figure to be against Stanford's strong offensive line and in the in-state rivalry game against Oregon, wherein Crichton moved inside to nose tackle to try to help slow down the Ducks' fast-break offense.
As seems evident on tape, Crichton is a good but not elite athlete. This is supported by his Combine numbers: very solid 4.84 forty-yard dash 24 bench press reps of 225 pounds are mitigated by middling 31.5-inch vertical and 9'0" broad jumps (evidence that his explosion is merely average). Crichton topped off these scores with 7.19 second three-cone drill and 4.29 second short shuttle marks. Despite his short shuttle time (which was fourth-best among defensive ends in Indianapolis), Crichton appears to be a bit stiff, and lacks the flexibility and bend to "dip and run" around opposing tackles. Furthermore, scouts frequently note that he plays too upright, allowing rival O-linemen to get into his body too easily.
What does our panel of perceptive purveyors of pigskin preeminence think of Crichton's play? Keep on keepin' on...
Rob Rang (CBSSports.com): 4th-ranked DE; 45th overall
Strengths: Possesses a well-built frame with good overall musculature. Times the snap well, showing good initial quickness off the ball to cross the face of offensive tackles. He uses his hands very well, frequently chopping and ripping through opponents' attempts to latch onto him and possesses good core strength, showing the ability to simply bull-rush would-be blockers into the pocket. Holds up well in the running game, showing the power to anchor, as well as lateral agility and balance to string plays out to the sideline. Good strength in his hands to grab hold of ball-carriers for the drag-down tackle. High-revving motor. Pursues laterally and downfield with passion. Time in the weight room has been obvious, as Crichton has added over 30 pounds to his frame since his high school days.
Weaknesses: While possessing an impressive build, Crichton's physique does not lend itself well to flexibility, however, making him a bit stiff when changing directions. Further, he does not possess ideal straight-line speed for the position and relies more on anticipation rather than closing speed to track down ball-carriers. As such, Crichton is limited to the schemes and roles in which he's likely to be successful in the NFL.
Compares To: Brian Robison, Minnesota Vikings - Like Robison, Crichton isn't an elite athlete but he takes full advantage of the traits he does possess and plays with a terrific motor. At worst, he should emerge as a quality member of the rotation early in his career and could develop into a quite effective complementary pass-rusher.
Gary Horton (ESPN.com): 5th-ranked DT; 45th overall
Pass Rush Skills: Explosive get-off quickness. High energy pass rusher with violent hands and a relentless motor. Has initial burst to cross OT's face and shoot inside gap before OT adjusts. Also very good initial pop to knock OT back on heels. Can be effective transitioning speed-to-power, although would like to see him follow through more often. Below-average torso flexibility and overall tightness can be seen when bending the edge or trying to redirect. Noticeable short-area closing burst when honing in on quarterback. Above-average instincts and discipline as a pass rusher. Sniffs out screens and draws early. Also does a good job of maintaining rush lane for most part.
Versus the Run: Explodes out of stance with consistently good leverage. Has shock in his hands. Can jar OL with initial contact. Effective hand fighter to shed blocks. Good short-area burst but only decent top-end speed. Lateral agility and range are adequate but not good. Gets knocked off feet a bit too often. Can get sucked inside and lose outside contain on occasion. Strong tackler with striking power. Good finisher for position.
Versatility: Ideal fit at next level is 4-3 LDE. Has experience reducing inside and can generate pressure in pass-rushing situations, but would need to add bulk to fit as a 3-technique, or 5-technique in a base 3-4 front. Has limited experience dropping and does not project as a conversion 3-4 OLB.
Instincts/ Motor: A tone-setter. Attacking, physical style. Plays with an edge. Very good motor. Loves to chase and gives consistent second effort.
Intangibles: Pronounced "CRY-ton". Strong work ethic and practice habits. Self-motivator and can handle criticism. Vocal, leads by example and is very confident. Helping family with financial support factored into decision to leave school early for NFL. Mother, Malama, works two jobs and father, Lucky, makes $10 an hour working at a warehouse (despite having artificial leg following amputation).
Tony Pauline (draftinsider.net): 5th-ranked DE; 65th overall
Positive: Moved into the starting lineup as a freshman, and since awarded varying degrees of all-America and all-conference honors. Junior totals included 47 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks after 44 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 9 sacks as a sophomore. Posted a career-best 74 tackles as a freshman. Athletic one-gap defensive end who makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Fires off the snap with an explosive first step, fluid moving in every direction, and shows speed off the edge. Works his hands to protect himself, plays with balance, and bends off the edge. Keeps his feet moving, gets a lot of pressure up the field, and disrupts the rhythm of quarterbacks. Easily changes direction, collapsing down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of the action and plays with a nasty attitude.
Negative: Does not play with consistent pad level, gets tall and makes himself an easy target. Somewhat of a tweener, lacking the size for defensive end and speed for outside linebacker. Struggles handling blocks and can be taken from the action by a single opponent.
Analysis: Crichton is a natural pass rusher who constantly disrupts the action. He possesses average physical skills and is not a scheme-diverse defender, but will do well at defensive end in a four-man line.
Nolan Nawrocki (NFL.com): 7th-ranked DE; no overall grade
Strengths: Put together - has a well-proportioned, muscular build with long arms and big hands. Good burst off the snap. Flashes power. Can shoot his hands, extend and get under a tackle's pads. Generally plays on his feet. Nice closing speed when he has a bead. Strong tackler. Tries for the strip (10 career FFs). Productive three-year starter.
Weaknesses: Needs to play with lower pad level. Tends to rush upright and defend too tall against the run. Dominated by double teams. Needs to cultivate pass-rush moves and counters -- does not have a plan. Shows overall body stiffness. Struggles to dip and bend the corner with leverage or flexibility. Gets sucked inside and loses contain. Loafs on the back side. Has tweener traits -- lacks ideal athleticism for the right side and bulk for the left side. Inexperienced playing in reverse.
Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3
Bottom Line: Strong, athletic, raw defensive end prospect who would have been better served returning for his senior season. Despite being rough around the edges at this stage of his development, Crichton shows in flashes and has power potential as a 4-3 defensive end. Could require patience.
Crichton isn't as athletic as other top defensive end prospects, Jadaveon Clowney, Kony Ealy and Dee Ford in particular. That said, Crichton makes up for the lack of elite athleticism with good get-off speed, strength at the point of attack, and a willingness to mix it up. He's a good soldier and a team player. In short, he lacks first-round athleticism - and has short arms - but possesses enough other desirable traits - especially a constantly churning motor - to slot him in the second round on my "little board." But that's largely a result of demand: he's been courted by both 4-3 teams and 3-4 teams who see him as a 5-technique (as well as teams like the Patriots who want hybrid types).
As far as the Cowboys are concerned, he reminds me a lot of a hybrid, "scheme diverse" player already on the roster, Tyrone Crawford. In addition to having similar games, both players offer something that the Cowboys appear to be interested in developing: defensive ends who can hold the the point on first and second down and then kick inside on third down to exploit mismatches against comparatively slow interior offensive linemen. If the Cowboys pick Crichton, I'd expect him to be key member of a D-line rotation moreso than a dominant force. Because of that, I'd much prefer that they draft him in round three, as I think there will be real difference makers still available with the 47th pick. But, in a classic draft dilemma, I don't think he's likely to last that long.
Later today: Now that you've seen how the national draftniks rate Crichton, stay tuned for our in-house scout, Joey Ickes, who will post a detailed, supplementary film study of Crichton to add to what you already know.
Tomorrow: Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence